In just five years BikeMaine has secured its place as a cycling bucket list ride, and this year the seven-day, 320-mile event is pedaling into the top of Maine on Sept. 8 through 15.
“BikeMaine is a celebration of Maine’s people, places, culture and food,” BikeMaine Ride Director MaryBeth Luce said. “As we started to think about where we wanted to go in 2018, northern Maine — and specifically Aroostook County — really stood out for us.”
The 2018 route was announced during a kick-off event in Presque Isle over the weekend.
Starting in Presque Isle, riders will head 52 miles toward Caribou for the first night. The next morning they will ride 50 mile to the U.S.-Canadian border in Van Buren and then along the St. John River to Madawaska, where they will spend two nights. After the rest day, it’s on to Fort Kent over 47 miles.
Riders will spend two nights in Fort Kent, with a 63-mile out and back ride to Allagash on Day Five. Day Six they head to St. Agatha and a ride around Long Lake and then the final 61-miles back to Presque Isle on Day Seven.
“Geographically, Aroostook County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, and there’s so much about northern Maine that we’d like to showcase for our riders, most of whom come from out of state,” Luce said. “It’s a very special place.”
Founded in 2012, BikeMaine is organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, to promote the state as a bicycling destination and to use cycling as an economic development tool for local communities.
The inaugural BikeMaine event was held in September 2013 and attracted 251 riders from 37 states and Canadian provinces and generated an estimated $235,000 in direct economic impact.
Since then, the rides have pumped $2.3 million in Maine’s local economy.
Riders camp out in designated host communities and have daily luggage transportation, support vehicles, snacks and meals.
“This year’s BikeMaine route will take riders through some of Maine’s most beautiful country,” Bicycle Coalition of Maine Executive Director John Williams said. “It showcases the splendor and natural beauty of northern Maine. It’s going to be a very special ride.”
Last year’s event took riders through western Maine and, according to Luce, resulted in an a direct economic impact of $660,000 over participating communities.
“We strive to bring notoriety to the regions we cover,” Luce said. “We are also committed to locally sourcing the food and other items as much as we can during the event.”
Last year, Luce said, more than 75 percent of the food served to BikeMaine riders was sourced within 70 miles of the ride route.
“This commitment to locally sourcing food is a core value of BikeMaine,” she said. “And harvest time in Aroostook County? That should be no problem.”
BikeMaine is limited to 450 riders and Luce said pre-registration has been strong, with fewer than 100 spots remaining.
“This event appeals to people from out of state who want to experience Maine,” Williams said. “In this case, it speaks to southern Mainers who may not have ridden or even been in Aroostook County.”
So far, Williams said, 50 percent of the registrants for BikeMaine are from southern Maine. In past years, a third have come from in-state.
As for any concerns residents may have about sharing northern Maine roads with 450 cyclists for a week, Luce said they should not worry.
“On any given day the cyclists are free to leave on their own between 7:30 and 9 a.m. so generally drivers will not encounter groups of more than four or five cyclists together,” she said. “And these are experienced cyclists who know what they need to do to ride on the roads. We can’t wait to ride in Aroostook.”
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